I spent the morning listening to Sarah McLachlan's Christmas album, Wintersong. She would probably call it a holiday album. I call it a Christmas album. Whatever. Anyroad, Sarah Mc has for years been one of those voices who could coax $15 out of me to listen to her sing the phone book. Her voice is not of this earth. That she happens to be able to package strong songwriting with that voice seems impossibly unfair to the rest of us mere mortals. A Christmas album from Sarah McLachlan seemed like a great idea. The execution of the idea? Good, but not great.
A funny thought went through my mind as I was listening to her version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which is the best moment on the disc.
"Damn, I wish Norah Jones would make a Christmas album."
As great as Sarah Mc sounds singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," she would be no match for Norah's version. I can hear it in my head right now. Norah Jones' voice and that song were meant for each other. Hell, she could just record that song 12 times and release a CD and I would buy it. Toss in "Blue Christmas," "White Christmas," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Silent Night," "O, Holy Night" and the back of a Campbell's Soup label and you have yourself the first essential Christmas CD since… Nat King Cole?
Close your eyes and imagine that voice and the words, "I'll be home for Christmas/if only in my dreams." If you can operate heavy machinery with that aural picture in your head, it is quite possible you have no soul. There is a warm melancholy in her voice that expresses loneliness in a beautiful and appealing way. It cannot be explained. It has to be experienced. She was born to make this record, and even my money-grubbing, capitalist cold heart will not try to score a percentage of the royalties if she makes this record by next year. I will consider my small role in the project a service to humanity so profound that profiting from it would be obscene.
This is what Christmas needs and yet we will not be getting it. Chalk another one up for racist, white America.
Not only will we not be getting it, we won't even be getting her new album in time for Christmas. The Christmas gods are usually pretty good to me. There is never a shortage of "must have" music being released this time of year. The two releases I am most interested in have already hit store shelves and are comfortably resting on my shelves (box sets from John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy). The third, Jones' new album, will not be in stores until January.
Talk about getting Scrooged! The music industry can hardly contain its evil desire to pack as many releases into a six-week window and yet this is the album that has been pushed until next year? The world can wait for new Gwen Stefani records! Norah Jones' next album might well bring peace in our lifetime. Blue Note, let my people go! Be a trendsetter! Everyone moves release dates backward. Move Norah's forward and do humanity a favor.
The irony in all of this is the album's title. Are you ready for this? Not Too Late. That is just a big bowl of wrong. It kind of hurts my feelings.
Okay, I have gotten carried away. I can admit it.
So, in addition to a release date of January 30, here is what we know about Not Too Late: it is 13 tracks, all of which were written or co-written by Jones. The album was co-produced by Jones and her bass player (and boyfriend) Lee Alexander. Collaborators, both new and old, include: Adam Levy, Jesse Harris, Kevin Breit, and Robbie McIntosh, drummer Andy Borger, and singer Daru Oda. Other album guests include singer M. Ward, organist Larry Goldings, and Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler.
Not Too Late Tracklisting:
- Wish I Could
- Sinkin' Soon
- The Sun Doesn't Like You
- Until The End
- Not My Friend
- Thinkin’ About You
- My Dear Country
- Wake Me Up
- Be My Somebody
- Little Room
- Rosie's Lullaby
- Not Too Late
The Christmas album does not exist (yet) and we still have a three-month wait for Not Too Late. As crushing as that is, we are going to have to hang in there together. My suggestion? Queue up these gems from her first two records while we wait for her third and keep your fingers crossed for that Christmas album!
Come Away With Me:
- "Don't Know Why" – The song that started it all for her. Sometimes a song can be a hit and years later no one remembers why. "Don't Know Why" should have been an even bigger hit.
- "Seven Years" – Devastating. I manage to use that word often and sparingly at the same time. Four years later and this song kills me every single time.
- "Feelin' the Same Way" – Not a burner, by any means, but a little more uptempo than the first two. I like the way this one shuffles along.
- "Come Away With Me" – Gorgeous, is what this one is. This one is gorgeous even without the personal connection I have to it. Okay – since you asked: this song was played at my brother's wedding reception and as it was playing, he danced with his stepdaughter while his wife danced with her son, his stepson. I think what is best about it is how it happened so naturally. There was no contrivance. It just… happened. Most people at the reception had the good sense to get off the dance floor and let the four of them have that moment. There were a couple tools who did not. Idiots.
- "I've Got to See You Again" – This song smolders. Great, great song.
There really is nothing wrong with any of the songs on Come Away With Me. Maybe you should just listen to the entire album.
Feels Like Home:
This album, for me, was not quite as consistent as Come Away With Me. There are no bad songs on the record and the best moments here are as good as the best moments on CAWM. Here are a few of them:
- "Be Here to Love Me" – This one features cameos from members of The Band. What a great song!
- "Toes" – Charming, simple, elegant. She makes it sound so easy.
- "What Am I To You?" – She can pull songs like this off because of that natural sound of loneliness in her voice.
- "Those Sweet Words" – Even though she plays some fine piano, I tend to like songs like this which emphasize acoustic guitar as a musical backdrop for her voice.
- "Sunrise" – You don't have to reinvent yourself when you are great at what you do and if you have good songs.